A Curated Collection of Culture & Lachesism

The following are the ramblings of a teenager who has been contemplating a lot of stuff during a weird time in history. If you feel satisfied with where you are in life, you probably don’t need to read ahead, but I also believe that there are people who will find my thoughts useful in some way.

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I know that the troubles and joys of this life are mostly determined like a toss of dice, but 2020 has left me wondering if the dice are loaded this time around.

Over the summer, I thought a lot about different emotions. So many things that I had suppressed, or hadn’t had the opportunity to feel, came rushing to my mind, be it through the state of international politics, my days in quarantine, or being distanced from so many places that hold meaning in my heart.

I started making lists of things in our collective culture that make me feel some kind of way, so I could better explore my increasingly muddled emotions, and dive into what the outer world still has to offer to my inner world (even while I remain confined to my house). These are things that I spent late nights, and sometimes very early mornings, curating for myself, so that I could keep them close by when I felt troubled or overwhelmed. Books, quotes, films, YouTube videos, music, poetry… Anything goes.

This gradually developed into a series that exists in my head, and in various scattered musings on the Notes app. I named the entire collection MixMuze, because it is a mix of things, and they have all been emotional and intellectual muses for me during this long summer. I hope to take them with me as I go on in life, which is one treasure that will come out of this pandemic. Another treasure is Duke’s Library Takeout video!

There is an emotion that is linked closely to the many devastations of our day: lachesism. It is defined in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (which I recommend that everyone read, by the way) as “the desire to be struck by disaster—to survive a plane crash, to lose everything in a fire, to plunge over a waterfall—which would put a kink in the smooth arc of your life, and forge it into something hardened and flexible and sharp, not just a stiff prefabricated beam that barely covers the gap between one end of your life and the other.”

So here are some suggestions to dive into your own psyche, and contemplate what lachesism means for you...

In my view, if you fall into the pit of wishing for disaster, you need not look too far to find the injustice and inquietude that already surrounds each of us, one way or another. If you feel that your life is too boring and safe, pick up a book, read about the miraculous, and if you do this consistently enough, you will begin to take the miraculous with you into the mundane.

Here’s a tip from Alice in Wonderland:

Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Food for thought from the White Queen.

Needless to say, the life arcs of people around the world are full of kinks at this point in time (whether they were ever smooth to begin with, is a different question entirely). Nothing is going smoothly. Yet most of us also feel the sense that everyday is the same day on repeat, with no change. It's a funny conundrum. There is so much going wrong, and our collective human experience is nothing short of a movie that will undoubtedly be made in the near future, worthy of popcorn and nachos dipped in cheese. Unfortunately, most of us can’t zoom out like this, and can only remain in the unending reprise of our everyday life.

You could also try to become more sensitive to the issues that plague your community. A lot of us are doing this instinctually these days. Even simply attempting to fix a problem in a system of your choice, whether you achieve your goal or not, can be the disinfectant that cleanses your lachesism, because kinks are bound to appear when difficult paths or problems are pursued wholeheartedly--perhaps also ingenuously, but I add this not as a fault.

Of course, there is an undeniable fault in the principle behind this elusive emotion. Disasters are not conducive to a happy life. However, the basic desire to be present in interesting moments, with winding paths and densely packed experiences, not one stretched thin between the beginning and end of existence, is felt by so many of us.

Now, it’s hard to tell if this desire is wise. There are definitely many philosophies which guide us towards being content in the more mundane aspects of life.

My only suggestion is that if you are looking for a more confusing, action-packed, spiritual, or intoxicating reality, you need not be disappointed, as long as you don’t get lazy in your search. The world was always absurd as it was, and now it is even more so, for a time. As I mentioned before, we would all do well to picture the grander scale of human experience at times when our own experience does not rouse us or inspire us to keep going.

When zoomed out, this year has been an incredibly dramatic rollercoaster. Not only that--our collective culture is filled with mysteries that have never been solved--Mona Lisas and Harry Potters that have yet to be created. Poetry that is yet to be re-discovered in a future millennium. In a more actionable sense, how many problems wait impatiently for answers? Someone needs to fix these broken gears so that we can all advance, and the middle of a pandemic is a better time than most to get going.

I know it’s tough, and a lot of people are going through real devestations. They don’t have the luxury to feel bored or uninspired. However, I feel that the world would be a much better place if we also sought ways to feel more original and invigorated.

So let’s not feel guilty or reprimand others by saying that they take their comforts for granted. Being blind to the marvels of our existence, even for a short time, is no comfort, although the external view of those troubled days can seem appealing to others.

Let us appreciate and love those that go through disasters so that we may be happier, but also seek ever-present ephemerality with new eyes. Otherwise, why live? If we feel lachesism coming on, let us not ignore its sting through guilt, but seek to receive its basic message for us: that we are not satisfied, and are growing uncomfortable in our unchanging comforts.